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Here are Some Reasons for Climate Optimism!
There are some encouraging things happening with the climate and with people's efforts to stop Man Made Global Warming. In this post we will talk about some of these positive developments!
In Virginia for example, lawmakers are working together - Democrat and Republican - without the usual rhetoric and bickering that politicians usually have. The reason is that flooding is getting worse in Virginia, people need to come together to combat this, and they are - Republicans can no longer ignore Climate Change.
Virginia has the world's largest Naval base - and also the most flood risk of any state on the east coast of the US. In fact it is so bad in the city of Norfolk, that the city gets flooding every time the moon is full. Sea levels in this area have risen 14 inches compared to 1939, which is extraordinary. But the citizens of Virginia are doing something about it - they are all working together, and that is a positive sign in the fight against Climate Change.
It is so important to bring everyone together: sea levels in this area are expected to rise another foot at least by 2060. This will put many homes at risk, as many as 176,000 homes in Virginia alone. Hopefully Virginia Republicans wills start to respect science and not abandon Virginia citizens. Read more at the Washington Post.
Virginia of course is not the only coastal state. Many parts of the US coast will have flood issues - can the lawmakers in these other states come together and work on these issues? Only time will tell.
The US Military recognized Climate Change and is carefully studying the effects of Global Warming on US security. This is a prudent action and shows that that the US Military has the right focus.
Another encouraging development is the launch of the Nasa Satellite OCO-2. This was first tried in 2009 and failed; so they built another one and successfully launched it into space today. It will orbit the Earth, 438 miles high, and study the climate and the effects of CO2. OCO-2 will cover over 80% of the Earths surface and this will give NASA considerably more information about Climate Change, and its effects. About half of the CO2 we dump into the atmosphere is absorbed by the Oceans and by tree's; OCO-2 will study this. It is unknown at this time just how much CO2 the oceans and trees can absorb, and what those effects will be; it is believe that this absorbed CO2 is already affecting ocean life, creating extinctions, reduction of Coral reefs, rising temperatures, and rising acidity in the ocean.
Corporate leaders are starting to change. Apple in particular is prioritizing the use of renewable energy, under the leadership of Tim Cook. This is impressive. Other companies like Amazon continue to disappoint, with no apparent concern for the climate.
Polls show that more and more Americans are starting to understand and believe in Man Made Global Warming, both Democrats and Republicans. (The polls show that Tea party Republicans have the least understanding of Climate Change of any group).
More USA news: President Barack Obama has put stricter controls on the emissions of coal plants. Coal is one of the biggest drivers of ManMade Global Warming in the US. Congress refused to act, but President Obama came through.
China has finally agreed to put a cap on CO2 emissions, starting in 2016. This was reported by He Jiankun, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change in China. The US and China are the two largest producers of CO2 and other damaging Greenouse gases.
Germany continues to impress. They have a large solar infrastructure - the largest int he world, despite less sunlight than many countries. Germany also has a goal to get rid of all nuclear power by 2022 - and they recently announced this goal will be achieved even sooner than that! Sweden, Italy, and Belgium have also sworn off of Nuclear power, and Austria and Spain are moving in that direction also. Nuclear plants are a unique situation and are symbolic; their pollution is in the form for radioactive waste - but removing them and replacing them with renewables helps the environment. Its symbolic, and that is important.
Smaller nations like the Caribbean nations of Antigua and Barbuda, Samoa, Grenada, and others are banding together to provide help and support. Natural disasters like a bad Hurricane can destroy much of the economy in one of these small nations; Climate Change represents a big risk. The world should come to the aid of these small nations as needed. They have formed a group called Small Island Developing States (SIDS). One big issues in the area is that these smaller nations are already heavily indebted, due to dealing with past disasters. This limits their ability to respond to future disasters.
Some smaller countries are even considering buying land, to move their people if need be. The Maldives are considering this, and the people of Kiribati have done so: they bought some land in Fiji. Kiribati are a people of 110,000 who live on 33 low-lying islands. Sea-level rise threatens their entire homeland. They are making plans and that shows responsibility and a strong understanding of the environment. The Kiribati have a program called 'Migration with Dignity', and it is their goal to deal with this now, rather than requiring a massive evacuation later.
For these small island countries, reducing CO2 is not the issue; Climate Change is already here and they have to deal with it.
US Senators, Working Together to Fight Global Warming
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Susan Collins’ (R-ME) introduced the "Super Pollutants Act of 2014" (click to download it) to reduce so-called "short-lived' - but very dangerous - pollutants. One of the targets of the bill are rising emissions from burning natural gas.
A bipartisan effort is impressive, its needed, and it is the way of the future if we want to really effectively fight climate change. The bill is aimed at super pollutants - these are gases that are considerably more damaging to the atmosphere than Carbon Dioxide. they do not stay in the atmosphere as long. The will will help in the short term, which can help help food security.
The bill focused on 3 of these super pollutants: Hydrofluorocarbons (also called HFCs), methane, and black carbon. Each of them are dangerous to the atmosphere, and have several causes. Taken together they cause about 40% of Global Warming; CO2 causes about 55%.
We need to act now; these gases have been on the increase, and that is exactly what we do not need.
Black carbon is a major part of the soot from cook stoves, natural-gas based power generators, wildfires, and other similar kinds of burning. It is much more damaging than CO2, though it stays in the atmosphere only days to weeks. It also contributes to Global Warming when it changes the color of ice; a glacier that is white will reflect the sun but when covered by pollutants like Black Carbon, the sun's rays are absorbed and melting accelerates. Black carbon is also linked to heart attacks, respiratory problems, cancer, and developmental defects in children. Almost half of Black Carbon Emissions are from trucks (mainly diesel engines).
HFCs are used in refrigerators and air conditioners. These devices leak; it is the nature of hi pressure devices. HFCs are thousands of times worse than CO2, and stay in the air for up to 15 years. They are also used in insulation, solvents, aerosol, and fire-protection products - and form the category of fastest-growing greenhouse gases.
Methane is released in large amounts by several industries including natural gas, petroleum, and agriculture industries. It lasts up to 12 years in the atmosphere and is 20 times more dangerous then CO2. Methane is also stores in enormous quantities in the Permafrost in Russia; if Global Warming melts the Permafrost, then warming will accelerate. Methane has many factors to consider as it is also produced by agriculture, and by landfills. Methane in the atmosphere reduces crop yields. Methane is a real problem; for example, up to a million abandoned natural gas wells, in the state of Pennsylvania alone, are leaking methane (read more here).
The bill has several components. It creates a task force to study and promote good practices; it has initiatives to reduce emissions by working with certain organizations; it aims to help the efforts to reduce diesel pollutants; and it extends the Clean Air Act to work on HFCs by reducing the equipment that uses them and work toward an eventual phaseout of all HFC use. Methane 'leakage' is accelerating due to increase natural gas drilling in the US.
Limiting super pollutants can not only decrease warming, it can also increase crop yields.
CO2 can last in the atmosphere up to 100 years, so limiting CO2 is the needed solution, it is also very long-term. Reducing these Super Pollutants is the best way to get some help in the short term. Hopefully the Bill will pass congress, and also be a model for other countries.
The UN created something called the Montreal Protocol; it is designed to protect the atmosphere, reduce HFCs, and it is signed by all UN members - it is in fact the only such UN initiative ever signed by all members and thus, the first 'universally accepted UN initiative. It resulted in eliminating 100% of the ozone-depleting chemicals that created the big hole in the ozone layer years ago. Now the protocol is focusing on HFCs, and super pollutants. The Montreal Protocol.is impressive for people all working together.
Warming Accelerating, Tyson Explaining, People Changing
Some Good News:
Germany is the most progressive country, by far, when it comes to climate change. Germany has a huge installed base of solar panels, and is working hard in many areas, especially in renewable energy sources. We re avidly following events in Germany; there are many aspects to 'doing the right thing'. We just saw a story of a completely waste-free supermarket about to launch in Germany, read more here. Also there is a photo of this supermarket at the bottom of this article.
Fuel cells are gaining steam. Fuel cells use natural gas to produce heat, and electricity - with far less emissions. The
Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) in Dresden is now making a fuel cell the size of domestic heater, that can power a home - producing heat, and up to 1KW of electricity. This could change everything, if the cost can be reduced. Fraunhofer is doing testing of the units in 150 homes, and is working to reduce the cost of the unit. You can read more here.
97% of the world's scientists now support Climate Change.
Billionaire Tom Steyer has put up $2 million to create a fund to help those who are hurt by Climate Change. He hops that others will donate to this fund. Congressional Republicans, who claim to care about regular people, are not doing anything to help those who are hurt by Climate Change.
The Antarctic ice sheet continues to grow, which no one understands. There is considerable study underway.
Thursday June 5 was World Environment Day, which was celebrated around the world. Not as big as Earth Day, but still important and recognized by many. Maybe everyday should be Evironment Day!
While most people are pessimistic, some optimistic. While American government policies are a disaster, there are many people making an effort especially in renewables, and startup companies. People are changing - and that can be powerful. Here is an interesting article on some of the good trends in fighting global warming.
City planning is accelerating all around the world, to deal with the effects of Climate Change.
But here is Plenty of Bad News Too:
Ever heard of 'Plastiglomerate'? This is a new kind of rock in our world, where plastic trash on beaches combines with sediment, basaltic lava fragments and organic debris (such as shells) to form a new object, like a rock, and that lasts for centuries. Future scientists will be able to use this 'plastic rock' material to study our civilization. Some plastics will melt when warmed and they combine with the natural materials around it. Plastiglomerate will last from 100's to even thousands of years. It is a sad commentary on what we are doing to the environment. People should care. When you see climate deniers and skeptics complaining about scientists, ask yourself: why don't they care? You can read more here.
The Texas GOP has called for Republicans to ignore Climate Change. Maybe we should all just ignore Republicans in the elections?
Jamestown, the oldest English settlement in the US, is about to be swept away by rising waters; part of it already is. Its further evidence of the rise in sea level. You can read more here.
Newsweek has reported that the Canadian government has prohibited Meteorologists from talking about Climate Change. Another form of backward thinking. In Canada, Meteorologists are listened to more than most scientists. But Canada has the world's 3rd largest oil reserves, mostly in the form of Tar Sands. Clearly, Canada has its priorities wrong. It is surprising in a way as Canada is often seen as a clean, progressive country.
And the worst news, which we have every week, is that CO2 emissions not only continue to happen, but continue to rise. This is the big driving force behind Global Warming. We could do something about it - but we need the US Congress to take a leadership position, and they refuse too. China also needs to take a leadership position in this area, instead of just focusing on economic growth. They re not mutually exclusive; Germany shows how sensible policies can be found.
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